Water is Life, right? It’s more precious than gold, correct? Clean water is more a much critical and essention resource for life on planet earth than, say, taxpayer-subsidized beef and sheep or taxpayer-subsidized oil drilling on public lands, right? The U.S. military believes – and has strong evidence – that water (or the lack of clean water) is a national security threat, especially around the world. Yet, today, the Trump administration removed federal Clean Water Action protections for ephemeral and intermittent streams and wetlands, which account for a huge chunk of waterways in the U.S., especially in the arid West and Southwest.
As you can see in the map above, the western U.S. – and particularly the American Southwest – is hit incredibly hard by the Trump administration’s latest environmental rollback. Obviously, many of those watersheds are found on federal public lands, including National Forest lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
A press release from WildEarth Guardians contained this information specific to Rio Grande Basin:
“The health of waterways in the Rio Grande Basin depends largely on the categories of waterways expressly excluded under the rule: ephemeral and intermittent streams, wetlands, and groundwater. Ephemeral and intermittent streams—those waterways that only flow in response to storm events or go underground for part of the year—make up at least 88 percent of streams in New Mexico and 68 percent in Colorado. New Mexico, alone, contains about one million acres of wetlands. The quality of the water in these tributary streams and wetlands directly translates into the quality of water of the Rio Grande.
The Rio Grande is the fifth largest watershed in north America covering an area larger than the state of Texas. It provides irrigation and drinking water to over 6 million people in the United States and Mexico. Even though the river only makes up one percent of the landscape, it is a critical migratory corridor for tens of thousands of sandhill cranes that overwinter each year in central New Mexico and it supports over 400 species of native fish, wildlife and plants.
Rio Grande Waterkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance prepared a detailed fact sheet analyzing how the proposed rule would impact tens of thousands of miles of streams, creeks, arroyos, and washes in the Rio Grande Basin. The Santa Fe River and Rio Puerco (one of the largest tributaries to the middle Rio Grande) are just two examples of major tributaries that will no longer be protected under the new rule.”
Here’s the press release from Center for Biological Diversity.
Trump Administration Slashes Protections for Millions of Acres of Streams, Wetlands
Move Puts More Than 75 Endangered Species on Fast Track to Extinction
WASHINGTON— The Trump administration finalized a plan today to slash Clean Water Act protections for streams, rivers and millions of acres of wetlands, allowing those water bodies to be destroyed or polluted without any meaningful restrictions.
The loss of protections triggered by today’s rule will ultimately accelerate the extinction of more than 75 endangered species, including Chiricahua leopard frogs, steelhead trout and yellow-billed cuckoos.
“This sickening gift to polluters will allow wetlands, streams and rivers across a vast stretch of America to be obliterated with pollution,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “People and wildlife need clean water to thrive. Destroying half of our nation’s streams and wetlands will be one of Trump’s ugliest legacies. We’ll absolutely be fighting it in court.”
Today’s final rule limits protections only to wetlands and streams that are “physically and meaningfully connected” to larger navigable bodies of water. The radical change will virtually eliminate the Clean Water Act’s protections across the arid West, from West Texas to Southern California, including most of New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.
An analysis by the Center parallels leaked government documents that estimate the final rule will dramatically reduce Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands across more than 3,000 watersheds in the western United States. Arizona and New Mexico could lose protections for more than 95% of their water bodies under the rule finalized today by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
President Trump’s Executive Order 13778 required the federal agencies to protect only those waters that have “a relatively permanent surface connection” to a traditionally navigable body of water such as a major river — a myopic legal interpretation that ignores the complex hydrology of the arid western states. The executive order followed the minority legal view of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, which was never adopted by the Supreme Court.
In rushing to comply with Trump’s executive order, the agencies violated both the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. Both laws require the federal government to “look before you leap” and ensure that the environmental consequences of a particular action will not cause unintended environmental damage.
“This is the darkest day in the 50-year history of the Clean Water Act,” said Hartl. “Left unchecked, Trump’s giveaway to special interests will foul our water, harm human health, and condemn wildlife to extinction for generations to come.”